An apology

The tone of the last few entries in this space makes me sound a little curmudgeonly lately. It must be the critical eye, because things couldn’t be better right now: I’m traveling the world, about to roll off a great freelance assignment, currently sitting in a Four Seasons hotel in Prague on a beautiful summer afternoon, with London and a July 4th pool party on my agenda for the coming week. And hey, the Yankees have the best record in baseball.

I miss my dog, but other than that, life is good great.

Goodbye, OnePass; hello, AAdvantage

Call Continental Airlines customer service, and recorded and live representatives make it a point to state, “We know you have a choice with your air travel, and we appreciate your choosing Continental.” Ironic, then, that they don’t treat their customers that way.

This spring, I flew domestic and international Continental flights and booked a forthcoming trip with frequent flyer miles. Some of what I’ve experienced:

– Each and every time I called Continental, the customer service rep asked, “And will you be needing a rental car on that trip?” This was posed even when I was going places where their rental car partners don’t have a presence (Prague) or called to ask questions about flights I had yet to book.

– When I called to lodge a complaint about a delayed flight, a representative told me that only 75 minutes of my 150-minute wait was “Continental’s responsibility.” As a result, she refused to consider my flight “significantly delayed,” placing my complaint below the two-hour qualifying threshold for compensation. When I asked to be transferred to a supervisor the representative flat-out refused. (A supervisor called me two days later, apologetic, and as an apology sent me “gift certificate vouchers” that I haven’t yet figured out how to use.)

– On one trip, a flight attendant glowered at me and muttered under his breath when I asked for a can of soda rather than a half-full plastic cup.

– Having flown a variety of airlines over the past 12 months (American, Delta, JetBlue, Virgin Atlantic, EasyJet), Continental has the least amount of coach-class legroom.

– And the real kicker, in my book: following the safety instructions on my international flight, the airplane’s media system showed three minutes of commercials complete with loud audio accompaniment.

Compare these experiences to the generally superior legroom on American, the way JetBlue flight attendants give you extra snacks with a wink when you can’t decide what you want, the Virgin Atlantic representative who gave me her full name and extension so I could ask for her on return calls, and the time a friendly JetBlue gate attendant placed a block on the seat next to me so I could sprawl on an overnight flight. There’s no contest.

I may be a captive audience once my ticket is purchased, but airline travel from New York City is a highly competitive market, and it will be a while before I choose to fly Continental again.

Early results

I received 97 pieces of spam at my home email address between 11:30 p.m. last night and 8:00 this morning.

Sounds like a lot, until you consider what I was getting: a hundred items an hour, on average, sometimes as many as 1200 emails between bedtime and 9 a.m. My spam filters, which have a 96% success rate, are still working well, only now my junk in-box won’t implode if I don’t empty it within 48 hours.

So far my domain-squelching plan is an unqualified success.

Administrative notice

As of tonight I no longer have a catch-all email address for incoming messages to netwert.com. I’m receiving between 2,000 and 3,000 spams per day to the overall domain, and the IMAP web-browser-based mail system I use has been choking on the filtering of so much junk.

What this means is that you can’t use cutesy addresses to email me anymore. More importantly, I am no longer responsible for typos: friends of my mom’s who misspell “myrna” are out of luck, as neither Mom nor I will ever see the message.

This is a pretty crappy way to manage email, but until spam’s chokehold lets up, I’m more or less stuck. Maybe I’ll just move my whole life to Gmail.

Gone fishin’

The nice thing about living a triple life as a freelancer, consultant, and business school student is the great scheduling flexibility I have. So I’m traveling. A lot.

The 18-month span between my layoff from The Economist and my business school graduation will, when all is said and done, include the following trips out of the metro New York area:

  • Whitewater rafting, upstate New York (twice)

  • Hawaii
  • Athens, Greece
  • Istanbul
  • Atlanta
  • Palm Beach, Fla. (three times) and Miami
  • Puerto Rico
  • San Francisco and vicinity
  • London
  • Prague
  • Chicago (tentative)
  • Martha’s Vineyard
  • Cape Cod and Cape Ann, Mass.
  • Shanghai and Beijing
  • Xi’an, Chongqing and Wuhan, China
  • Hong Kong
  • Tokyo (if an airport layover counts)

Bring on the traveler reward programs.

Things you don’t ever want to do, a series

1. Try and combine two frequent flyer accounts, two reward points programs, purchase-by-the-thousand mileage rewards, cash allotments and mileage gifting to purchase two tickets to fly halfway across the world, linking the accounts despite different outbound itineraries, spanning the Thanksgiving holiday. Business class.

The moon cookie

Want the perfect New York dessert? Head to the east side of Manhattan, grab the uptown 4/5/6 subway, take it to 86th Street, walk east to First Avenue, hang a left, go one block up the east side of the avenue, cross 87th Street, stroll past the Radio Shack and turn right. There you’ll find Glaser’s, a great, century-old neighborhood bakery, where the Glaser family continues to make the best black and white cookies in New York City. They’re baked fresh daily and worth the trip.

I’ve been eating black and white cookies my whole life and Glaser’s are the quintessential example. Glaser’s makes excellent chocolate chip cookies, too, and challah every Friday. Every once in a while I wish I still lived in the neighborhood.

(cross-posted on kottke.org)